On its way to the Moon, NASA’s Artemis 1 test flight dummy will have company. The European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Tuesday that Shaun the Sheep will join the unmanned mission when it launches later this year.
As a result of the announcement, Aardman’s beloved character will become the first ESA astronaut to participate in the Artemis program.
“This is an exciting time for Shaun and for us at ESA,” ESA Director for Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker said.
“We’re woolly very happy that he’s been selected for the mission and we understand that, although it might be a small step for a human, it’s a giant leap for lambkind.”
NASA announced that Artemis 1 could launch as early as August 23rd, following a successful fueling test of its next-generation SLS rocket.
The mission will take NASA’s Orion spacecraft, as well as Shaun and Commander Moonikin Campos, beyond the moon. If everything goes as planned, the capsule should return to Earth after 39 to 42 days in space.
“The spacecraft will perform a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself 70 000 km beyond the Moon, almost half a million km from Earth – farther than any human, or sheep, has ever traveled,” the ESA said.
Aardman didn’t say much about it, but Shaun will most likely be the mission’s zero-g indicator. It’s become a tradition for space crews to bring a plush toy on missions since Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took a small doll with him on the first-ever human spaceflight.
Some unmanned flights have also taken part in the exercise. For example, in May, Boeing’s Starliner capsule delivered Jebediah Kerman from the Kerbal Space Program to the International Space Station.